Saturday, December 5, 2015

Murphy's Law in Manic Mode

Have you ever opened your big mouth and wished you hadn’t? Well…yes, but only in retrospect.

I think it was December of 1989. A bunch of us were eating lunch together at work. Ray was telling us about how he raised and supplied the dressed quail for the gourmet meals served on this casino cruise ship out of Jeckyll Island, Georgia. Hearing only casino cruise ship, I piped up and said, “Wow, that sounds like fun. We ought to do that sometime.” And that’s how it all started.

Ray got free tickets, Sandra offered to drive their motorhome, and the six of us made plans to go the following Saturday. The Christmas tour was happening on Jeckyll Island meaning we could even do some shopping. We picked a motel in Brunswick and everyone made their reservations.

Four of us, Sandra, Shirley, Jim and I, pulled out of Sandra’s driveway in Gainesville around 3 on Saturday, plenty of time to make the 150-mile trip and catch the Emerald Princess before it left the dock at 7. We’d pick up Ray and his wife on the way.

At Ray’s house we got the grand tour of the quail operation, and then Cheryl, his wife, had to show us her angel-making pottery studio. I admit she did beautiful work, but I was getting antsy about the time. Finally, we all piled back into the motorhome and sped up 301. Cheryl found a deck of cards and four of us sharpened up our poker skills as Sandra headed to Georgia while Shirley kept her company in the passenger seat.

We arrived in plenty of time, and since dusk was falling, we decided to look at the Christmas lights on Jekyll Island even though rain was misting down. Caught up in a line of sightseers doing some gawking of their own, we snaked along through the dazzle of rainbow colors. When we stopped at an intersection to wait for traffic to move, it happened. The motorhome’s engine sputtered and died. Sandra tried and tried but nothing would bring that critter to life again. Long before the days of a  cellphone for everyone, Ray hoofed it to a shop to call AAA. “Yes, they would send someone right over.” Uh huh.

We waited, and watched the time tick by as traffic curled around us. Finally, someone from AAA came and took Ray to pick up a rental car in hopes that we could still make our 7 o’clock deadline. It didn’t take long and Ray was back with a…tiny little compact mini something, the only thing the car agency had left. How in the world were we all going to fit into that? Not easily.

By now it was pouring rain and we still had to find the dock. Ray insisted he knew exactly where it was. He reversed direction through the crowded streets and soon came onto a main highway. I was scrunched in a corner of the backseat and watched out the steamed-up window as Ray swerved between orange construction barrels. They marked a narrow lane to our progress. We came to the business section and off to the right I could see the water. I thought yes, Ray knows what he’s talking about. Then I realized we were going the wrong way on a one-way street. I think I shouted something remarkable like “We’re going the wrong way.” Ray was not fazed and quickly righted our direction, but now we were going away from the water instead of toward it.

In the end after many twists and turns trickier than Algernon’s maze, we found the dock, but the beckoning lights of the Emerald Princess were bobbing on the horizon off in the distance. There would be no quail and no poker this night.

Our disappointment was quickly replaced by hunger pangs. The immediate task now was to find our motel, the La Quinta Inn, and hopefully, it would have a nice restaurant. We were travelling down the line of orange barrels again with the squeaking windshield wipers about to fly off their hinges. In desperation, Ray pulled into a gas station and asked for directions. Following the attendant’s excellent advice, we soon arrived at the motel and went in to register. They had some kind of trouble with my credit card and had to put it through several times, but finally we all had our key cards and trouped up to our rooms to freshen up before dinner.

After Jim opened our door, I stretched out on the bed in complete exhaustion from all the stress of the drive. I moved around trying to get comfortable and smelled a strong pet odor from the bed covering. The sign in the lobby had said “pet friendly.” This trip was going downhill by the minute. Jim phoned the desk and asked if someone could bring new bed linens. After cleaning ourselves up a little, we joined the others in search of food. By the time we got back, we supposed everything would be new and fresh.

We all met at the front desk and were told about a nice seafood restaurant within walking distance. Even though it was still drizzling, it was better than getting back into that phantom of an automobile. It wasn’t far and we found the food and service to be tolerable. We all felt a lot better after our hunger pains subsided. The rain had stopped when we left the restaurant so we walked around a bit before going back to La Quinta.

Our room was in the same shape we had left it, still smelly. Jim called again and was assured someone would be right up with new bed linens. I yanked the comforter off and threw it out in the hallway, a big improvement almost immediately. The top sheet had to go too. Now we were coverless and chilly with nothing to do but wait. No one ever came and we finally fell asleep covered up with towels.

In the morning Sandra contacted AAA and we were directed to the garage that had the motorhome. There we were informed it had a faulty fuel pump and, no, they didn’t have one. It would need to be ordered. In the meantime the mechanic would fiddle with the old one and see if he could fix it. He thought the problem had occurred when the main gas tank had switched over to the auxiliary tank. Plugged into the garage’s electric, we relaxed in the motorhome, made some coffee, and discussed options.

Shirley’s husband was due to fly into Jacksonville that morning from a business trip to Dallas. She left a message at the Jax airport for him to call our garage and soon it was arranged for him to pick us up in their van, their large comfortable van.

The ride home was uneventful except for one stop we made near Baldwin. Ray expressed his desire to look at the hundreds of lighted wire-shaped reindeer and Santa Clauses peppering a field near a roadside market. He already had a few of the yard ornaments and wanted more so the rest of the way I rode nose-to-nose with Rudolph.

When I got my credit card bill a couple of weeks later I realized Murphy’s Law was not yet finished with me. I was charged twice for my lovely stay at La Quinta